If you are a fan of Major League Baseball, be sure to strap in and enjoy the wild ride that is going to be the MLB offseason. Once the World Series concludes, baseball front office’s start planning for the next season. The winter months are filled with rumors, free agent signings, and trades. And this winter has already been somewhat active as the hot stove begins to heat up with Thanksgiving fast approaching.
Kendrys Morales has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. Bartolo Colon and R.A Dickey are now members of the Braves. The Astros have brought in some thump by adding Brian McCann and Josh Reddick to their lineup. And those are just a handful of the moves that have gone down so far.
But there are still plenty of moves to be made this winter, and things will truly heat up in early December during the Winter Meetings. Over the course of the next few days, fellow INSC writer, Stephen Reed, and I will be taking a look at some possible destinations for some of the bigger name free agents on the open market. You can check out Stephen’s pieces on Edwin Encarnacion (link) and Yoenis Cespedes (link) at the given links.
But we are here to talk about some pitching as opposed to sluggers on offense. The relief market is loaded this winter, and the man on top of the mountain is Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is a 29-year-old who can throw harder than anyone in baseball. He can consistently hit over 100 mph and is hands down one of the most dominant closers in baseball. He saved 36 games in 2016 while striking out 90 over the course of 58 innings between the New York Yankees and World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.
To make him even more appealing, he has no qualifying offer attached to his name since he was traded during the season. So while there are plenty of solid closers out there (Kenley Jansesn, Mark Melancon, Greg Holland), Chapman is going to pull in a monster, and possibly record contract. So it is going to take a team that has some money to lure the fire-baller, but there are still plenty of options. So here are five potential landing spots for the most dominant closer on the market this winter.
1. New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are one of the more interesting teams to follow this offseason. The team is not going into full rebuild mode, but they are not exactly in position to go all in either. They have already shipped out Brian McCann, Nathan Eovaldi and Dustin Ackley, which has helped to clear some payroll. Their main focus moving forward: adding pitching. Quality pitching.
And there is no denying Chapman is a quality arm. While he is not a starter, the Yankees know the impact of a dominant bullpen. There have been rumors every since the team dealt him away at the deadline that they would be pursuing him in the winter. The team never seems to run out of money, even if they have not been willing to spend it in recent offseasons. Pairing him with Dellin Betances once again would form arguably the best 8th and 9th inning combo in baseball. The Yankees want to add pitching, and bringing back their former closer is certainly an option on their list.
2. Chicago Cubs
From one former team to another. The Chicago Cubs would have never won the World Series if it was not for Chapman. They leaned on him heavily in the final three games of the World Series, as he was the only big time reliever manager Joe Maddon had any faith in. So if he does not return, the champs pen will be in a state of flux.
He would slide right back into his role of closer if he opts to head back to the Cubbies. The Cubs may not be willing to give him the biggest contract of this group, but they certainly provide him with the best chance to win. So we get to see what truly matters to Chapman the most this winter: winning, or the most money.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the big name relievers on the free agent market this offseason is Kenley Jansen. Jansen has a very similar profile to Chapman, except he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, not the Cubs last year. So if the Dodgers cannot bring back their former stud, why not pursue a slight upgrade in Chapman? The team appears to be made out of money, as they have a history of simply handing out contracts with high dollar values.
We also know the team has had interest in Chapman in the past. Last winter before the deal that sent Aroldis to the Yankees, the Dodgers had a trade in place. That deal ultimately fell through when the domestic violence issues cropped up. But the Dodgers will not have those issues on their minds this winter, when they send Mr. Chapman a rather hefty contract offer.
4. Washington Nationals
Continuing the theme of teams who have their closer on the market this winter. Mark Melancon hits the free agent market with Chapman and Kenley, leaving a gaping hole at the back end of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen. They are a team that appears to be on the edge of super stardom, as they do not have many major holes. So the pen is very likely to be a top their list.
Enter Chapman. Chapman would become the lock-down closer the team so desperately wanted Drew Storen to become a few years back. After a few rough postseasons the Nats moved on from Storen, and went with Jonathan Papelbon (also a free agent) and eventually Melancon following the trade that brought him in during the Summer. But now the team has lost all of those guys, and the slot is primed for someone like Chapman. The team has the money, and they can certainly be in the mix.
5. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants have a few positions of need this winter, but one of the bigger ones comes in the bullpen. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are both set to depart via free agency, leaving youngster Hunter Strickland as the only real back end option the team has. Given the team is set on improving their pen, Chapman is an obvious pick to lock things down.
The question becomes whether the team would be willing to meet his demands regarding money. With such stiff competition for Chapman, the Giants could very easily opt to pay less for a Melancon or maybe even a Greg Holland. Wade Davis is also available via trade, and he would be a nice fit in San Fran. But none the less, the Giants are still certainly in the mix when it comes to the big lefty.
So what do you think? Where will Chapman sign this offseason? Tell us in the comments!